Zebrafish: It's not your parents' lab rat

Jul 30, 2007

Zebrafish cost about a dollar at the pet store. They grow from eggs to hunting their own food in three days. Adults can lay up to 500 eggs at once… and you have more in common with them than you think.

"For all their differences, humans and zebrafish aren't that dissimilar," said Rice University zebrafish expert Mary Ellen Lane. "For every zebrafish gene we isolate, there is a related gene in humans."

In her most recent work, Lane, graduate students Catherine McCollum and Shivas Amin, and undergraduate Philip Pauerstein zeroed in on a gene called LMO4 that's known to play roles in both cell reproduction and in breast cancer. Using the tools of biotechnology, the team studied zebrafish that couldn't transcribe the LMO4 gene, and they observed marked enlargement in both the forebrain and optical portions of the embryos. When they overexpressed the LMO4 gene, making more protein than normal, those same areas shrank. The study will appear later this year in the journal Developmental Biology.

"The study suggests that LMO4 independently regulates two other genes that promote growth in those areas of the embryo," said Lane, assistant professor of biochemistry and cell biology. "It fills in another piece of the bigger picture of what's going on during neurological development."

Zebrafish -- like rats and fruit flies before them -- are becoming regular contributors on research ranging from cancer to cocaine addiction. For example, zebrafish were used a landmark 2005 study that led scientists to the human gene that regulates skin color.

Lane's zebrafish studies explore one the major unexplained areas in developmental biology -- how the brain and central nervous system develop. It helps that zebrafish embryos grow from just a single cell to having a forebrain, hindbrain, spinal column and eye within a scant 24 hours. It also helps that the embryos are transparent and develop outside their mothers' bodies -- and can thus been seen under a microscope at every step of their development.

"It's a beautiful organism for experiment," Lane said. "It develops in a very regular way, so any abnormality is easy to spot, even for undergraduates with only a few days training."

Source: Rice University

Explore further: Wood bison make it to Alaska village; April release planned

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Amazon says FAA drone approval already obsolete

2 hours ago

The approval federal aviation officials gave Amazon.com last week to test a specific drone design outdoors is already outdated, the company's top policy executive said Tuesday in written testimony to a Senate subcommittee.

Firm combines 3-D printing with ancient foundry method

2 hours ago

A century-old firm that's done custom metal work for some of the nation's most prestigious buildings has combined 3-D printing and an ancient foundry process for a project at the National Archives Building in Washington, ...

Recommended for you

China starts relocating endangered porpoises: Xinhua

4 hours ago

Chinese authorities on Friday began relocating the country's rare finless porpoise population in a bid to revive a species threatened by pollution, overfishing and heavy traffic in their Yangtze River habitat, ...

A long-standing mystery in membrane traffic solved

6 hours ago

In 2013, James E. Rothman, Randy W. Schekman, and Thomas C. Südhof won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discoveries of molecular machineries for vesicle trafficking, a major transport ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.